The Princess and the Goblin

princess and the goblin

The Princess and the Goblin, kindle edition, by George MacDonald. Published in 1872. 134 print pages.

This book is available to read for free at Project Gutenberg.

I have never been a huge fan of fantasy novels. I’ve read two of the Narnia books, and one of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings installments. Despite their renown, the genre has never held enough appeal with me to inspire a desire to read more. It’s more about my personality than the books themselves, however, and I recognize this. So when my daughters were assigned George Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin as part of their British literature study this semester, I saw a perfect opportunity for me to revisit the genre in a non-threatening way. By non-threatening I mean that this is a relatively quick read.

I’m very glad I decided to read it along with them, as it is quite a delightful story. So much so, that I am giving serious consideration to which of Macdonald’s books I want to read next. I’ll try to offer a brief overview without giving away too much of the plot.

Princess Irene lives in her father’s castle under the strict supervision of her nurse, Lootie. Lootie is to keep a watchful eye on Irene and take care to govern her under specific guidelines. Chief among them is that they are never to play outside after dark. What Lootie knows but Irene doesn’t, is that underground, below their kingdom, is another kingdom. It’s a kingdom of goblins who only come out at night, and they love to terrorize the “sun people” should they happen upon them.

Of course, Irene and Lootie inevitably find themselves outside on the wrong side of the sunset, but they are rescued and kept safe by Curdie, a brave young miner boy who is not afraid of the nocturnal, lurking goblins. He knows they’re weakness, and is adept at wielding the knowledge he possesses. During his brave nighttime exploration, he finds out the goblins are hatching a plot, that Princess Irene is at its center, and that he must warn the kingdom so that it can be thwarted. What Curdie doesn’t know is that Irene is under the protection of a powerful entity who can shield her from all of the nefarious happenings taking place in and around the kingdom.

This is a fast-paced story that simultaneously demands that the reader take the time to see the vivid imagery and overlapping activity taking place among the characters. It’s a children’s book, but a smartly written one. I found myself eagerly wondering what would happen from one chapter to the next. It’s a great read.

5 out of 5 stars.

8 thoughts on “The Princess and the Goblin

  1. smkoseki says:

    1. Thanks for including the Kindle link. In my cart. I’ve never heard of this one.
    2. Amazed Tokien doesn’t move you (i do find Narnia dreary but my kids like it). What about Watership Down?


  2. Elspeth says:

    It wasn’t that Tolkien didn’t move me. At certain points he most certainly did. for example (I hope I got this right):

    Deeds will not be less valiant just because they aren’t praised.

    That is moving stuff, and this is one of the best ever:

    “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

    If I’m going to read 400 pages of anything fiction, I need to be almost enraptured with it, and I wasn’t. It wasn’t enough to overcome my -seemingly- inherent issues with fantasy in general. It took me a while to figure out that that what was what my problem was, 🙂 , but that’s it.


  3. Elspeth says:

    I do think that LOTR was too slow of a pace for me. I like my stories to keep moving. Since I really enjoyed Princess and the Goblin</i., and liked Narnia better than LOTR, I wonder if the pace was another thing about it that kept me from fully appreciating it.


  4. hearthie says:

    It’s not weird. Many a person who really enjoyed a good epic tale involving elves got bogged down in that meeting in the first book and never recovered. Before the LOTR movies came out that was the “normal”. -shrug- IMO LOTR is classic-quality literature, but it’s also classic-quality pacing and slog-through. Beautiful, well written, the plot, the metaphor, the characters… all on point. But it’s SLOW. And it gets very dark and “no hope” in places and it’s hard to keep yourself going through it, even though you know it will all work out in the end. Hm. Sort of like life, really. In other words, I’m glad I read it – once – and I’m sure I’ll get motivated to read it again, but probably not next week. It’s good, but not FUN.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Heidi says:

    I strongly recommend that you do not read the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie. It’s bitter and despairing, and I’ve tried to forget it exists.


  6. Elspeth says:

    Hello, Heidi!

    Is the sequel so depressing? That is very unfortunate. I’d considered having the kids read it and reading it with them; just to see what becomes of Currie and Irene. You, however, have given me pause.

    Thanks for the pre-emptive review!


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